AT about 11:30 this morning, the President, speaking in her usual drone, announced before the country’s top business executives the exile of her husband, without admitting that he or any other member of her family were guilty of indiscretions and stressing instead the sacrifices her family had made for her presidency. (Download the President’s speech in PDF or audio file)
Just minutes later, even before Filipinos could digest the full import of that announcement, the rug was swept from under the President’s feet. At Club Filipino, Susan Roces, speaking mostly in Tagalog, said in no uncertain terms: the President stole our vote. She must resign. (Download excerpts of Mrs. Poe’s statement in PDF or audio files 1 and 2)
The contrast could not have been more dramatic. Mrs. Arroyo was speaking in English from a prepared text, in her typical business-as-usual, admit-no-evil, “I-have-a-Phd-in-economics” manner to businessmen who wanted to be assured that the current political controversy would not unduly destabilize the economy. She offered her husband as the sacrificial lamb, with the hope that the offering would appease the business community and the middle class.
Mrs. Poe, on the other hand, was speaking extemporaneously and looking every inch the leading lady. She spoke to her husband’s constituency in Tagalog taken straight out of a 1960s movie script:
“Tuwing araw lamang ng halalan na tunay na lahat tayo ay pantay-pantay, mayaman man o mahirip, tig-isa lamang tayo ng boto kaya yun ay sagrado. Nakalulungkot at nakagagalit ang kasalukyang pangyayari. Noon ang sumusupil sa ating karapatan at nanlalamang sa atin ay ang mga dayuhan na sumakop sa ating bayan. Ngunit sa kasalukuyan, ang nanlalamang at kumikital sa ating karapatan ay sarili nating kalahi at kadugo (Only on election day are all of us truly equal. Rich or poor, each of us has only one vote, that is why it is so sacred. I am saddened and angered by what has happened. In the past, those who exploited and trampled on our rights were foreigners who invaded our land. Now, it is our own countrymen, those of our own blood, who are guilty of such odious crimes).”
The President was making an appeal of expediency: the economy is on the right track, any upheaval now would only derail growth and prosperity.
Mrs. Poe, on the other hand, took the moral high ground: the president erred and she should go, regardless of the consequences.
Expediency or morality? Stability or upheaval? The battle for the hearts of Filipinos is certain to heat up in the coming days.